When University alum and former President Gerald Ford came back to Ann Arbor to watch Michigan play Ohio State in football, he didn’t get a suite in the Campus Inn or the Bell Tower Hotel. Instead, the University put him up in a 10,000 square-foot mansion located east of the Nichols Arboretum.
The Tudor mansion, called Inglis House, has been owned by the University since 1951. It was willed to the University by Detroit industrialist James Inglis, who had no direct connection to the school. After sitting idle for three years, the mansion was converted into the official University guesthouse and a residence for off-campus regents in 1954. Since then, scores of alumni, speakers and dignitaries, including the Dalai Lama, have spent the night in the slate-roofed mansion overlooking the Huron River Valley.
It is believed that the house, which cost $250,000 to build in 1929 – about $2.8 million in today’s dollars – was donated to the University by James and Elizabeth Inglis to serve as a house for University presidents, said Rita Galloway, facilities manager for the office of the president.
Galloway, who oversees both Inglis house and the President’s Residence at 815 S. University Ave., said every University president since 1951 has been offered Inglis House as a residence, but they all have chosen to live on Central Campus instead. Galloway said University presidents probably choose to live on Central Campus as opposed to Inglis House as a symbolic gesture to show they are engaged with the campus.
But the University has found the relative isolation of Inglis House useful when it needs to house a prominent dignitary with some degree of privacy.
University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said the United States Secret Service preferred to have Ford stay at Inglis House because the secluded 8-acre estate is relatively easy to secure.
Citing security concerns, Galloway and Cunningham did not permit The Michigan Daily to tour the third and fourth floors of the house, which is where the guest rooms are located.
The five-bedroom house, which is rumored to have had the first stand-up shower in Ann Arbor, can accommodate up to 10 overnight guests, but Galloway said typically only about three to six guests stay there in a typical week. Football season and the spring are generally the busiest times of the year, she said.
The house and the extensive gardens surrounding it are also used for University functions, formal dinners and receptions. The dining room can accommodate up to 40 guests for a formal dinner, and the house’s library and gardens are often used for receptions and tea parties for faculty groups. Dinners at the house are catered, but a caretaker who lives in the estate’s gatehouse prepares breakfast for overnight guests.
Galloway said the house is one of only six University buildings with a liquor license. Inglis House can only be reserved for events and guests by University departments, and all requests must be approved by Galloway. Departments must pay $175 per night for guests to stay in the house and are also charged for other functions hosted there.
Most guests stay for a night or two, but at the request of then-University President Lee Bollinger, former Athletic Director Tom Goss was allowed to live in the house for nine months while he searched for permanent housing after he was hired in 1997.
Galloway, who has overseen the house for the last eight years, said she has never had a request from a student group to have an event at the house, but that such a request would require University President Mary Sue Coleman’s approval.
There are two full-time staff members dedicated to running and maintaining the house as well as two groundskeepers that split their time between Inglis House and the President’s Residence.
Galloway said that about 20 years ago, the house’s grounds were maintained by the School of Natural Resources and the Environment. During that time, a graduate student lived in the gatehouse full-time and was responsible for maintaining the grounds, which included a three-hole golf course, clay tennis courts and a 12th century Syrian sarcophagus. Galloway said the sarcophagus, which was owned by the University Museum of Art, was removed from the property a few years ago because it was deteriorating.
Former University President James Duderstadt and his wife Anne undertook a large-scale restoration of the house in the early 1990s. They had the floors and the walls of the house refinished, replaced, and completely redecorated the house with period furniture, drapes and art from the art museum.
Today, Inglis House is used for University events two or three times a week and houses guests year round.
Galloway said she doesn’t expect former President Bill Clinton to stay at the house when he delivers the commencement speech at the end of the month, but she has it reserved just in case.
-Scott Roffman contributed to this report.
Guests of the ‘u’ in the inglis house
The University houses some of its most prominent guests at a large mansion overlooking the Arb.
– Poet Robert Frost
– Play-wright and alum Arthur Miller
– Members of the royal families of Japan, Greece, Thailand and the Netherlands
– President Gerald Ford
– News-man Mike Wallace
– Opera star Jessye Norman
– Drs. Christiaan Barnard and Jonas Salk
– he Dalai Lama
– Musicians Leonard Bernstein and Vladimir Horowitz